Sunday, June 6, 2021

Plant Pets and Plant Zoos

'Hope for Humanity'
I was stunned speechless, stopped instantly in my tracks last week, by a random statement in a column by Ann Wareham.  In the column, Ann, a British garden writer, was pushing back against the societal pressure to change our gardens into more ecologically-sound, "pollinator friendly," "sustainable," "drought resistant" or "rain" gardens.   Ann threw the following statement in an early paragraph as one of the many reasons why it is difficult to start a new garden:  "Given that most people treat plants like pets and are reluctant to kill any apart from those rather arbitrarily defined as ‘weeds’, it is truly hard to imagine how any of these clean slate, ethically sound gardens are supposed to emerge."

People treat plants like pets!  Of course!  ProfessorRoush treats plants like pets!   I nurture them, I feed them, and I water them; I'm thrilled when they grow and perform well and I'm disappointed when they crap in their beds.  An epiphany, like so many others, right before my eyes the entire time.   Here I am, veterinarian and gardener for a lifetime, and I've never realized that so, so many of my plants are pets.  The rose, 'Hope for Humanity', pictured above and at left, blooming so perfectly red and bountiful, is a favorite of my treasured plant pets.   So is the 'Blizzard' mockorange below, covered in white and perfuming the garden.  And the fringed and crazy 'Pink Spritzer' peony, a wild Klehm creation, seen at the feet of the mockorange and in the closeup at the bottom of this blog.  Inside the house, a collection of different Schlumbergera and a few pet orchids make up the indoor garden.

'Blizzard' Mockorange
In fact, as I take my new pet-colored vision further, I now realize that I don't have a garden, I have a zoo.  ProfessorRoush's garden isn't about having just a few treasured and well-cared for companions, it's about collecting the uncommon or unusually beautiful, a thousand individual specimens to draw my attention and time.  There are few repeating plants in my garden; repeating families or genus's perhaps, but few cultivars that I divide and spread in repeating waves.   A few daylilies perhaps, particularly vigorous and worthy, and the rampantly suckering 'Dwarf Pavement' rose have multiple locations in my garden, but where some have a single viburnum, I have 6 or 8, all different species and versions.   How many different peonies or daylilies or roses do I really have?   I've lost count. 

'Pink Spritzer'
ProfessorRoush's Garden Menagerie.   Come take a horticultural safari with me, my friends, as we stroll in the evening around the garden.  Knautia macedonia has made the front bed a burgundy pincushion, soon ready to pass the torch on to Orientpet (notice the group name?) lilies.   Roses are fading from their first flush of flowers and peonies are dropping petals everywhere in the back garden, while the daylily buds stretch towards the sky, soon to dominate the scene.  Three different Mockorange's are in bloom now, in three different beds, and the Russian sage and the Persicaria polymorpha are demanding attention from viewers.  Grasses and sedges aim for fall, biding time and withholding flowers until the heat of August forces them out.

Plants as pets.   Gardens as menageries.  Maybe not so socially-conscious, but satisfying and educational at every turn.   That's my style.

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